UI pushes ahead on diversity

The+University+of+Iowa+Campus+looking+west+from+Old+Capitol+and+the+Pentacrest.

Tom Jorgensen

The University of Iowa Campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

By KayLynn Harris  |  [email protected]

The running joke on campus is that the University of Iowa and Iowa City is a suburb of Chicago.

And while there are many students from Chicagoland on the UI campus, it’s no accident. UI officials have spent recent years reaching specifically out to the area and others similar to it with a goal: to diversity the student body.

The efforts have paid off: the freshman class was the most diverse ever.

The university broke records with the incoming class of 2019, which is comprised of 21 percent minority students, not including international students. 

Students from Illinois have long accounted for much of the student population. In the current first-year class, Illinois residents along account for 30 percent of the class. Iowa residents account for 47 percent of the class.

Through the Admissions Office, outreach agents acting as representatives of the UI travel throughout the country visiting high schools. Not only are school systems targeted, community organizations are as well. Among those targets is the Chicago public-school system.

“A lot of people have this misconception that Iowa City is a boring place. When doing outreach among minority students we don’t lie to them,” said Brent Gage, the UI associate vice president for enrollment management. “The University of Iowa is a predominantly white institution, but we are offer a huge array of resources that cater directly toward minorities and diversity students.”

The UI purchases information from the ACT — including scores and GPA — to develop a target demographic that includes minority students who university officials believe could succeed at the UI. Some of these services are only offered to diversity students who show interest in the UI. The umbrella term “diversity students” includes first-generation students and minority students.

Once they have that information, students who fall under the UI’s diversity standards receive letters and information packers.

“We focus in on students who are academically successful,” Gage said. “It is one thing to have a minority as a student, but it is an even better thing to have them as a graduate.”

But UI officials offer more than information; they offer incentives.

The UI will reimburse students the cost of gas for their campus visits; they can also have their application fees waived if they qualify.

Other resources are available, including the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, whose purpose is to provide diversity students with assistance through their college life. The center offers programs, advising, tutoring, and scholarships.

Gabriela Rivera, is a multicultural specialist at the center, touts the resources diversity students receive once they are on campus.

“The Office of Admissions and the [center] have a great partnership. Admissions has the resources that brings the students here, and the [center] has the ability to help them succeed once they are on campus,” she said.

The UI aims to aid students financially, too. The center provides scholarships to diversity students along with programs to help with their transition into college life.

The Iowa Edge program allows 100 first-year minority students to move in early in order to get better acclimated to campus. During the program, students meet with minority organizations and faculty as well as visit UI facilities.

The center also sponsors a multicultural visit day for prospective students to allow them to see what the UI has to offer for minority students.

“It is important that students see people who look like them on campus,” Rivera said. “We want to make sure that they know if they chose the University of Iowa that they have a community waiting to welcome them with open arms.”

UI freshman Jamie Stubbs of Chicago liked her experience at the UI as a diversity student.

“I became interested in the UI through the Chicago Scholars Program. The UI has a partnership with the program, and it held an onsite admissions event,” she said. “I got to talk to representatives and learn more about the school.”

Once Stubbs committed to the UI, she met officials from the center. She applied to be a part of the Iowa Edge program and was selected.

“The program helped me a lot,” she said. “Not only did I meet other minority students, but I got to see all the things on campus available to me. The programs offered here for diversity students made me feel like I belonged.”

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